How to Get Rid of Squatters

Written on June 8, 2015 by , updated on December 28, 2015

SquattersWhen your tenant remains on your property without paying rent, he’s called a holdover tenant, also known as a tenancy at sufferance.

But you can also consider him to be a squatter – a person who unlawfully occupies property you own.

Sometimes squatters hold a certain attitude, as if they have rights to your property. And depending on the circumstances, and the local laws, they sometimes do.

That’s right! If a squatter has been allowed to occupy a property for some time, they might have the same landlord-tenant rights as holdover tenants.

Some jurisdictions are friendlier to squatters than others are. San Francisco, for example, has a tenants’ union that helps squatters stay on your property.

A Common Problem

Pay attention to this case, particularly if you live in the California:

What about Trespassers?

Let’s say you have rental property that has been vacant and you haven’t been to visit it for a while. When you do go … surprise! You find some uninvited and unwelcome residents living there. Can you kick them out?

It depends. In some cities, if squatters turned on utilities at that address in their name, they might be able to claim residency. Even though these people are stealing your property, the police consider this a civil, not a criminal, matter.

To get the squatters out, you would need to open a court case. Fun, huh? You probably know that most court systems aren’t exactly the epitome of efficiency. The case could take months or even years to resolve.

This is the dark side of landlording, and it’s a huge flaw in the justice system.

What You Can’t Do

If you find an unwelcome squatter living on your property or if you have a tenant who stopped paying rent, you can’t do the following:

  • Put padlocks on the place to keep him out
  • Shut off utilities
  • Try to intimidate him in any way

Courts could view those acts as self-help, or illegal, and could fine you.

Regarding shutting off utilities, it’s probably better to keep them on anyway. Your squatter might improvise by using candles that could start a fire. He also might continue to use the bathroom facilities … even when they aren’t working. Enough said there.

What You Should Do

Try to avoid a squatter situation from happening. If you plan to leave your property vacant, make sure that it’s secure. You or a property management company should also check on the place regularly.

If you already have a squatter, here’s what you could do:

  1. Call the Police
    Act immediately if you discover a squatter by calling the police. The longer you wait, the more likely it will be for the courts to think you gave this person consent to be there. If the police declare this a civil matter and won’t remove the squatter, start the eviction process.
  2. Give Notice, and then File an Unlawful Detainer action
    Once you serve the eviction notice, you could get lucky, and the squatter might leave. If not, you’ll need to file an unlawful detainer lawsuit, which is the formal way to evict. Make sure you follow your state’s laws.
  3. Hire the Sheriff to Force the Squatter Out
    If the squatter is still sticking around after you’ve won your lawsuit, you’ll need to pay for a sheriff or police officer to get him out.
  4. Legally Handle the Abandoned Personal Property
    Find out what you can and cannot do with any stuff the squatter might have left behind. You probably can’t just get rid of it and would need to follow proper procedure for your jurisdiction. Many times, you can place it in a storage unit at the tenant’s expense. If they don’t pay to remove the items, the storage facility will auction it off.


Property owners need to do what they can to protect themselves against squatters.

Unfortunately, the law favors squatters by treating them as tenants even though this is unfair to owners. It places the hardship on legal owners instead of on wrongful squatters. Until there are laws that give landlords immediate relief and that punish the squatters, we’ll see this problem continue.

Have you ever had a problem with a squatter? If so, share your story in the comments below.

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353 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Amoi

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    • Joshua E. Daniel

      My friend Nicholas is claiming squatters right
      I let him stay for a few weeks. He has done chores.
      The church gave him I gift card. He used it for food for us.
      I asked him to leave he said no
      Then called the cops.
      He is claiming squatters rights

  • Jessica Butler

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  • Emma

    Rented to a couple and the womans son. They were okay up until the woman’s boyfriend tried to rape me in my sleep when no one was home. Told my bf and we told her. She didnt believe us bc he pays every thing for her. Her side man comes when the bf isnt home. I made a pokice report they couldn’t do much since i had no evidence of what he tried to do to me. Tried to get them to leave at this point if we didn’t we were gonna evicted too. The couple both got violent with me. Police still wont do anything. I am 4 months pregnant. We changed the locks to the house and thru their stuff outside. Now shes accusing me of all sorts of accusations. Im jist protecting myself and my 1 year old and my baby on the way.

  • william walker

    I have a small farm property with 2 houses and a shop that i had been renting. A person wanted to buy it,and made me an offer. He said he had access to larg amounts of money and could pay for it
    in 4 years or less. If things went bad, it would be paid in less than 10 years.

    I removed the original tenants and he moved in. But it took more than a year to get the down payment and any rent. He said he was spending on property,

    Nothing notorised or filed, but he changed deal every 3 months for 2 years then quit paying

    No pay for 5 years. cant evict

  • Noele B

    I have a person who has a shipping container on my land. I want it removed. he is refusing to remove it threatening to take legal action against me. He did improvements to the property without my permission and wants to be repaid for them or be given the lot. I simply want the container removed. want are my options. please advise.

  • Kathy Miller

    I hired a former tenant to be apartment manager as at-will employee. Free apartment was part of compensation. Contract specified if fired, they would leave in fifteen days. She vandalized my property and I immediately terminated her employment but she won’t leave. I gave no tenant notices, only gave termination letter and demand that they leave as specified in the contract. Can I go to court to evict as Unlawful Detainer? or any problem?

  • Ronda

    Hi – I live with my husband in an up/down duplex in Cleveland, OH. Shortly after moving in, I began to be ORALLY RAPED by unknown males after I fall asleep at night and subsequently rendered unconscious (there is NO WAY I would stay asleep during such ordeals). Police/rape kits done.. These rapists are coming from the 1st floor unit through one o two crawl spaces – none of which I can find. The 1st floor tenant has been evicted as of 2/5/18; however, she still enters the unit w/friends at night and wait for me to fall asleep. I’ve called the police, but they ‘run and hide’… The landlord is unresponsive an is trying to sell the house, which he offered to us. I need answers FIRST. Please, what else can I legally do? Thank You!

    • Jamie Lynne

      How do you know this is happening to you? And where the hell is your husband while this is happening? Sounds like a made up story by a paranoid or possibly mentally ill person or someone who just wants attention. Unless you have proof or a better story with answers to these questions…?

      • Ronda

        Well, “Jamie Lynne”.. ‘How do I know this is happening to me?’🤔 Judging by your outrageously rash reply, your comment sounds like the typical, judgmental statement that is all too commonly directed at victims experiencing situations WAY over their heads! Also, are in some way ‘affiliated’ with these scum of the earth, insecure DOGS who take great sadistic pleasure in targeting and raping adults, as well as CHILDREN, while rendered completely unconscious in their homes? Are you aware of the fact that the SAME EXACT PHENOMENON (a child pedophilia ring, to be exact) was blown wide open recently? Btw, are you a medical doctor? A PhD? If not, I think you should limit your assessments about my mental status by just plain shutting up, hmm?

        • Jamie Lynne

          Still didn’t answer the question… how do you know this is “happening to you” if you are asleep while it occurs? And where is your husband while this is “happening to you in the night?”

          I never claimed anything. I stated that this story seems highly unlikely and that it seems like a story someone would makeup for attention; but I also stated that if you can answer those two questions, reiterated above, I would be more inclined to believe you….

          So again, can you please answer those questions?

        • Bernie Taryen

          Totally insane and ridiculous!

      • Ronda

        Oh, and one more thing… This discussion is about ‘how to get rid of squatters’ – not ‘how to bash victims of rape by squatters’.. Sounds like a STALKER to me! Please do yourself, as well as others, a favor and keep your insensitive, no-nothing comments to yourself. Thank you.

  • Jenna

    I have a squatter with a lease in my name which was forged. Any suggestions?

  • Renee

    Every situation is different. I was looking for an apartment and someone refer me to someone.I rented out an apartment from the person and moved in with my family members in January, I paid $2300 to moved in . After being there for almost 2 mnths I received a letter saying that our occupancy is illegal and that we may be victims of a criminal who fraudulently places us in the apartment and they gave us 7 days to leave. I don’t know what to do cause I have kids and no where to go. People telling me that I’m there for more than 30 days so they cant put me out so easily and I should tell them to take me to court, when I told them that they’re saying that they can only take me to court if I was a tenant and not a squatter .

  • Renee

    All I’m asking for is more time so I could find a place and leave. Any advice

  • Brian

    Empty commercial lot in San Benito county California not posted for no tresspassing I moved onto it June 6 2017 tresspassing signs went up February 1 2018 and tonight March 11 2018 a dumpster was dropped and driver said the fire Dept was going to be here in the morning. What squaters rights do I claim and did I establish Tennant’s rights 30 days in with non contact from the owner? What should I be worried about in the morning? Built a little cabin in back of lot and fully expect them to red tag it but beyond that what could happen?

  • Bernie Taryen

    Totally insane and ridiculous!

  • Lizzette

    The legal system with regard to tenants and squatters has to be the most ridiculous nonsense I’ve ever seen. The owner of the property pays for it, pays the taxes, pays insurance and then any deadbeat is allowed to STEAL (and YES that IS what living in a house you aren’t paying the rent for or you broke into or anything else IS!) I wish someone could explain to me who on earth came up with these ridiculous laws!! It’s like forcing property owners to help the homeless situation! Can’t landlords get together and somehow get these insane laws changed? Had enough experience with these idiots to last a lifetime. They actually somehow think they OWN the places and the law lets them! They also know all the tricks and what can get away with.

  • Michael

    We bought a house 5 months ago so that my daughter and her female friend would have a place to stay. They were paying us and we paid the morgage payment. 2 or maybe 3 weeks ago daughter moved in boyfriend and friend moved in another couple without our permission to help pay rent but hasn’t. The bills are all in my name. No lease paperwork. Can I just kick them out for trespassing. Can I just move in myself?

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